It's Time for Manhattanhenge

You can see it tonight, or in July
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 29, 2024 8:06 AM CDT
It's Time for Manhattanhenge
Clouds obscure the view of the setting sun on 42nd street in New York, Tuesday, May 28, 2024.   (AP Photo/Mary Conlon)

Twice per year, New Yorkers and visitors are treated to a phenomenon known as Manhattanhenge, when the setting sun aligns with the Manhattan street grid and sinks below the horizon framed in a canyon of skyscrapers. The event is a favorite of photographers and often brings people out onto sidewalks on spring and summer evenings to watch this unique sunset. The first Manhattanhenge of the year happened Tuesday at 8:13pm, with a slight variation happening again Wednesday at 8:12pm. It will occur again on July 12 and 13. Some background on the phenomenon from the AP:

  • The name: Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson coined the term in a 1997 article in the magazine Natural History. Tyson, the director of the Hayden Planetarium at New York's American Museum of Natural History, said he was inspired by a visit to Stonehenge as a teenager. It struck Tyson, a native New Yorker, that the setting sun framed by Manhattan's high-rises could be compared to the sun's rays striking the center of the Stonehenge circle on the solstice.
  • When: Manhattanhenge does not take place on the summer solstice itself, which is June 20 this year. Instead, it happens about three weeks before and after the solstice. That's when the sun aligns itself perfectly with the Manhattan grid's east-west streets.
  • What: Viewers get two different versions of the phenomenon to choose from. On May 28 and July 13, half the sun was or will be above the horizon and half below it at the moment of alignment with Manhattan's streets. On May 29 and July 12, the whole sun will appear to hover between buildings just before sinking into the New Jersey horizon across the Hudson River.
  • Where: The traditional viewing spots are along the city's broad east-west thoroughfares: 14th Street, 23rd Street, 34th Street, 42nd Street, and 57th Street. The farther east you go, the more dramatic the vista as the sun's rays hit building facades on either side. It is also possible to see Manhattanhenge across the East River in the Long Island City section of Queens.

Similar effects occur in other cities with uniform street grids. Chicagohenge and Baltimorehenge happen when the setting sun lines up with the grid systems in those cities in March and September, around the spring and fall equinoxes. Torontohenge occurs in February and October.

(More New York City stories.)

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